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Safety in Electrical Installations

Electric power has become so common in our environment – work or everyday – that it is easy to forget the dangers associated with its use. In order to avoid electrical accidents that result in damage to people or property, it is important to review several concepts related to safety in electrical installations to minimize risks. In most cases, these accidents are caused by failures in the electrical system due to an incorrect conceptualization; due to poor installation of cables, conduits, protections and accessories, due to overload of circuits, due to defects in devices and due to misuse of electrical equipment. With this scenario, it becomes essential to consider some points to have an efficient electrical installation based on its design, construction, operation and maintenance. The important thing is that the person who is involved in electrical projects, operations or maintenance tasks has solid technical knowledge and supported by current regulations.

INTRODUCTION

It is no news to anyone that electricity is the most widely used form of energy worldwide, however, it has become so common in our lives that it is easy to forget the dangers associated with its use.

Ignorance of the dangers associated with electrical energy implies the generation of accidents with different levels of severity, both at work and at home. Electrical shocks can cause harmless mild tingling to suffocation, burns, or death.

Against this background, it is important to review several concepts related to safety in electrical installations.

ELECTRICAL TYPE ACCIDENT

An electrical accident is any eventual event that results in involuntary damage to people (bodily injury, illness, disability or death by electrocution), or to things (damage or loss, generally due to fire) as a result of the passage of a current through the body or object.

In Most Cases, An Electrical Accident Is Caused By:

Failures in the electrical system due to incorrect cable installation and / or circuit overload (poor conceptualization and subsequent construction).

Defects in electrical appliances (lack of maintenance).

Misuse of electrical appliances and / or equipment (negligence; lack of training).

For An Accident To Occur, There Are Basically Three Conditions:

An electrical installation in poor condition due to aging and / or lack of maintenance ; since the passage of time degrades the materials of the installation and therefore increases the risk of a short circuit, fire and / or electrocution. Any electrical installation that is over 20 years old becomes dangerous if it has not been subjected to some kind of revision; In addition, lack of maintenance is appreciated when improvised extensions (extensions everywhere), poorly made repairs, worn out electrical equipment and / or accessories that are not replaced, etc. begin to appear.

There are no protection systems . A large number of electrical installations lack the minimum protections indicated by the different official Mexican standards. The guidelines dictated by these standards, in addition to ensuring proper operation, provide protection and security to users. Some points of risk due to lack of protection systems are the lack of coating on live parts and electrical accessories, there is no marking of exclusive areas for authorized personnel, the absence of switches and disconnectors, the omission of a grounding system, among others.

The electrical installation is operated and / or repaired by unqualified personnel or as per the pat testing guide . Changes made to an electrical installation by people who do not have adequate knowledge are a frequent cause of electrical accidents. Installation without registration or control of extensions or modifications can cause imbalances and overheating in the electrical network that can escalate to short-circuits or fires. In addition, there are also possible electrocutions produced by manipulating the installation without any protection.

PREVENTION OF ELECTRICAL ACCIDENTS

In order to prevent accidents, it is good to consider some points to have an efficient electrical installation:

1.  Design and construction

2.) Define all the needs in the project (lighting, contacts, strength, etc.); The above implies taking into account future extensions.

3.) Ensure that all materials, equipment and accessories are approved for use.

4.) Every electrical installation must have a properly designed grounding system.

Grounding of accessories, cabinets, pipes and housings.

Step and contact voltages calculation.

Polarized type receptacles (phase, neutral and ground). The above implies order and care as far as polarities are concerned.

Wet areas (bathrooms, sinks, sinks, laundry rooms, etc.) must have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) systems.

2. Operation and Maintenance

a) Any change or modification in an electrical installation must be documented before and after it is carried out. Before the change, it is necessary to analyze loads to verify that electrical protections and conductors are adequate even with this modification. Subsequently, verify the absence of cables without trunking and avoid circuits that close through the grounding conductor (one of the worst practices that occurs in several installations). In addition, load information, current intensity and new elements of the installation must be updated in plans, memory, single-line diagram and boards (identification of circuits). An updated and documented project represents more than half of the solution in the event of an eventuality

b) In a maintenance service or unscheduled shutdown, it is important to signal and block the disconnection means to avoid accidents. It is essential to verify the absence of potential; especially in medium voltage systems.

c) The measuring equipment used for operation and maintenance must include effective safety measures against high short-circuit currents or an electric arc.

d) An electrical installation requires, periodically, a thorough diagnosis to probe and anticipate problems. This study is basically divided into:

Energy audit: analysis of electrical parameters (voltage, current, power, harmonic distortion and power factor), energy consumption (billing), unbalance between phases, and visual, mechanical and thermographic inspection to detect hot spots due to loose connections.

Electrical installation report: which includes documenting the technical specifications of the electrical installation (voltage, installed load, contracted load, useful area, etc.); identification of dangerous conditions – such as damage, defect, deterioration, corrosion – in connections, boards, protection devices, feeders, branch circuits, receptacles, lighting systems, motor circuits, pipes and supports; tests to the grounding system (conductors, electrodes, joints and splices), et.

CONCLUSIONS

Despite being a form of energy present in almost any activity, a pending issue that urgently requires further monitoring is to generate greater awareness of the risks inherent in the use of electrical energy, including materials for its transport and end-use equipment. There is much to be done in terms of a culture of electrical safety in companies, workers and in society in general, and the numbers, after all, do not lie in that regard. An in-depth analysis of everything that the safety of an electrical installation implies from its conception, and through its operation and maintenance, can be a way by which to become truly aware of the benefits and risks involved in this form of energy .

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